To the Editor: We would like to comment on a recent article by Chan et al on clinical practice guidelines for depression in young people.1 We disagree with their proposal to amend National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines2 to include a statement that "SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors], particularly fluoxetine and paroxetine, should also be considered as a first-line treatment" for major depression in young people. We believe that there is insufficient evidence to assign a grade of "E1"2 to this statement. Chan et al1 quote three randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and one systematic review in support of their argument, but as yet the results of only two of the three RCTs have been published.3,4 Unfortunately, Chan et al do not include a critical appraisal of the significant methodological and analytical problems with each of the studies. Nor is any comment made about risk–benefit ratios, or the fact that even if the results were sound the clinical relevance of such small differences between active drug and placebo is questionable.5 The following brief commentary on the two studies highlights the dangers of carrying out sophisticated procedures such as meta-analysis without sufficient attention to the quality of the trials included in the analysis.
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